Bartender gets drinks ready at the barHave you been injured in an accident as a result of a drunk driver being served too much alcohol at a bar? Or have you been injured as a result of a bar or tavern serving you too much alcohol and letting you drive home? If so, contact Horowitz Injury Law, a team with 35 years of experience in commercial host liability cases, as you may be eligible to receive compensation for your injuries.

A commercial host is legally obligated to monitor their customer’s level of impairment and to not serve alcohol to someone who is intoxicated. In cases where a patron of a bar is impaired by alcohol, the commercial host has a responsibility to ensure that the intoxicated individual is not permitted to operate a motor vehicle; this requires affirmative action by the bar owner to arrange alternative transportation for the intoxicated patron or take other reasonable steps to prevent the individual from driving a motor vehicle.

In Ontario, there is a recognized duty of care owed by commercial hosts towards individuals who are sold alcohol while on their premises and to third parties who are injured by the impaired driver. In addition, there is a statutory duty, under the Liquor License Act, for the bar owner to not serve an intoxicated patron or over-serve to the point of intoxication, which could give rise to civil liability.

Depending on the circumstances, a bar or tavern owner could be held liable for damages if an intoxicated person on their premises is served alcohol and that individual is allowed to operate a motor vehicle and is injured or killed. Similarly, the commercial host could be held liable for damages and injuries suffered by other drivers and passengers, or pedestrians, who are injured or killed as a result of the negligent acts of an intoxicated driver. In such instances, it’s imperative to identify any witnesses who may be able to report on the actions (or lack thereof) of the tavern owner and the conduct and outward signs of intoxication of the patron.

A case involving potential commercial host liability inevitably involves a detailed review of the bar or tavern’s systems and protocols relating to the serving of alcohol. Have the servers received adequate training in serving and identifying intoxicated patrons? Did the bar or tavern have a system in place to monitor the sale of alcohol to its customers? Were the protocols in place followed? These cases are fact specific and often turn on whether the customer showed outward signs of intoxication and whether the bar owners knew or ought to have known that the customer was impaired by alcohol and allowed to drive. The potential liability of the bar or tavern could be greater if the customer was served by the same server over the course of the night, who would have been in a good position to monitor consumption and any outward signs of intoxication.

It is important to note that the potential claim against the commercial host does not negate the legal liability of the impaired driver, who made the ultimate decision to operate a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol; the driver will normally be found to be primarily responsible.  However, there are tactical advantages to pursuing the commercial host, in addition to the impaired driver.  Commercial hosts are not protected defendants under the Insurance Act and they do not, for example, get the benefit of a Threshold defence or the monetary deductible, which could result in additional recovery by the Plaintiffs. It is imperative that the facts of the case be carefully reviewed by an experienced commercial host liability lawyer in Toronto.

If you have been in an accident as a result of the negligence of a bar or tavern owner here are some steps to take immediately depending on your condition:

  •           Call 911 and assess the situation
  •           Try and obtain as much information from any witnesses at the scene
    (including the bar or tavern)
  •           Take photos of the damages sustained
  •           Identify the make, model and license plates of any vehicles involved
  •           Obtain the police report and any relevant medical/hospital records

If you or a loved one have sustained injuries as a result of a bar or tavern owner’s failure to prevent an intoxicated driver from operating a motor vehicle – call Horowitz Injury Law today for a free consultation at 416-925-4100. Brian A. Horowitz specializes in these types of cases and is available to speak with you at no charge to assess whether or not your claim may have merit.